PREVIOUSLY: The Transfiguration of Ritchie Ra, wherein he explores the eye, illness, and the last Transit of Venus likely to pass over a populated earth. We’re introduced to some of our heroes. Phenomena astronomical are discussed, accidents happen and thoughts return to Earth as Alfonso Heliotrope leaves his mark on Ritchie Ra’s body. Behind the mask is something even worse.
Haze of sin settling over windshields and windowsills, leaving thin deposits, worming ways in toward bedrock. Topside graveyard nettles grasp and catch. Night falls over the city of the dead.
Oh, but the lights come on, we can see it all. Let’s to the tall buildings, then, feeble axes mundi of glass and steel shearing delicate winds, diverting gentle current into scrappy threadbare components and refusing to budge while gray birds take lazy wing below, coasting on downward breezes, castoffs from considerable lateral wind loads. Skyscraper engineering a tricky goddamn business, account for wind pressure or load by engaging a rolodex of variables, velocity pressure times gust effect factor and external pressure coefficient minus likewise for the internal, providing the structure has no response characteristics that might make issues of, say, across-wind loading or vortex shedding or the like. So much work just so they can stand tall and resilient after fifty or a hundred years taking a beating. Still, without it we’d of course be nowhere, painting cave walls and fucking indiscriminately, or--hmm well let’s not get ahead of ourselves here--maybe just the latter, early sapiens leaving behind African origins at more or less the same time this whole place sat preserved under a thousand feet of ice, the era of our common Y-chromosomal ancestor, long before shamanic wall decoration entered the picture, that is, you know, long before the Word... and when cold retreated (not to return to the Northeast coast until Vinland turned icy under Viking incursion ten thousand years later), tentative bands took to hunting in Central Park and tossing scraped bones into the East River. What so defied nature in those days, when the only questionable ‘sustainability’ was that of our own race, never sure whether or not fickle deities might choose to plunge us back into frost? Adherence was the only option. Not that we ever thought about it, or needed to do, still no shaking the feeling that back then the equation was balanced, young human species wont to overstep and nature a vengeful demiurge repeatedly reminding us who was really in charge.
Teleological theorizing is real easy to do, of course, with these bright city lights on. Where next? To the coast, through the Narrows, oceanside, Lenape having once referred to this whole area by an appellation meaning “place by the sea,” subsisting in summertime largely on the fluke, sturgeon, mackerel, eel won from local fishing sites and then moving on come autumn. At least that hasn’t changed, family boats heading out of port long as the weather’s good and coming back loaded with, well the once-superabundant oysters are gone but striped bass and sheepshead supplies can still be counted upon, no extant seals either but wouldn’t have wanted any in the first place, and anyways (here the city itself interrupts) doesn’t the fact of those Munsee fishermen sticking weirs in the water constitute as good an example of Fucking With Nature as does any sputtering motorboat or highrise condo? Well technically it’s not for us to say, but what the heck--these streetlights, glare streaming from some of those eight hundred thousand civic living and working spaces practically daring an answer--for a start, those weir-setters never made for an overshot carrying capacity, never took food out of the mouths of future generations and stuffed it in their own. If only we could, as in the world of real estate developers--which swarm has made such proud inroads on these islands--just crunch some numbers: let’s see, 15,000 Lenape New Yorkers have been estimated, split into some eighty kinship-structured groups rotating campsites, building longhouses, clearing trails, burning fields for planting, otherwise reshaping their roughly 320 square miles of land. Just stick some sort of natural resource metric in there and we might see whether K, akkursed karrying kapacity, had already been met, maybe even surpassed, by the time the canoe party sailed out in 1524 to greet Verrazzano and show him, without hesitation, the safest place to beach. Oh man, New York is steamed up over this--would that such a calculation could be done, one that spoke of a negative population growth, an exceeded upper limit, some clue that even their hunter-gatherer model was one which dealt in destructive consumption, that that calling isn’t exclusively ours...
But in the absence of firm data, the proud metropolis will rely on its common sense, take care not to rationalize, just objectively assess, something bound to crop up--here’s one: the fact that those same romanticized human ancestors (got ‘em now) killed the mammoth, drove it, it just so happens, to extinction! But the derisive laugh catches, hollow, in the city’s throat, for yeah, that’s just it, fella. You’re a symptom. Alright, New York will concede that one (despite it being perhaps a little below the belt), but not ready to admit defeat, chooses to leave its lights on, just sort of inviting more speculation, here grasping at passing that buck, well what about that slash-and-burn agriculture you mentioned? Clearing fields, burning the woods, making room for those squash-maize-bean crops all pleasantly commingling undersoil--w-what do you call that? The growth of this city, the imposition of the grid, 1811 Commissioners’ Plan being the last straw (we graciously maintained the odd Lenape trail, the city reminds; you can still walk them today), can’t it all be seen as a natural outgrowth of any one of these techniques, no symptom but evolution, a defiance of nature, sure, but in its place a proud assertion of survival? A salmon fighting the current, a bird flying south, a diver depositing caissons at a bridge’s base, triumphantly drifting surfaceward and bravely fighting off the bends; what’s the difference? The strong survive, Might is Right, what happened to all that? Nature is but an element of a world built for manipulation, for exploitation, for--
--well, jeez, I mean have a little faith--(I can’t, the city answers. I am faith’s opposite number.)
And the lights?
I ain’t turning them off for nothing! Someone’s gonna have to (can’t help noticing its voice cracking here) d-do it for me!
Yes, well, that might be just the thing... but no, no use being so cruel, reminding it. It’s living on borrowed time. It knows. Shall we just on with the tour? To the forests, then, manicured municipal parks, give the people a little green space, let them stretch their legs (See? New York by now pleading, Don’t you see we’re trying?). Round here at night all manner of life runs riot, fat subway rats crawling everywhere tipsy on pondwater, sneezing flecks of flu without discretion. Often these terminal cases are set upon by chickenhawks, who pretty much have their run of the place and so are often up past bedtime swooning dihedral unto any stragglers. Realistic-looking rock outcroppings encircle fake lakes, overlook bike paths and nocturnal rollerbladers. Kids drink pilfered beers and smash the bottles delightedly. Not too shabby, right? A little ecotope of our own, and you gotta admit, this dead city has a point. Every niche testifying to imminent collapse, to excessiveness and disintegration, and yet doing so in one voice, the lights blinking it out in code, manhole covers and grates steaming their missives, billboards in Times Square really magical sigils chanting the tenets of well-worn spells, the dead city, to be lost forever but content for having, in the face of inevitability, maintained a real fuck-you spirit, oh this place by the sea, such a shame, dressing itself up in funeral attire, lacing up boots for the march to the gallows.
Well, then, join those proud ranks, O Doomed City, and be a sunken Ys, an invisible city of Kitezh. Be a swampy Saeftinghe, a dried-up Ur or Otrar. A razed Nineveh, an abandoned Petra, Ani, or Tikal, a ruined Babylon or Perperikon. Become Hajir, the city destroyed by a scream. A city of rumor, Z or de los Cesares, Paititi, Erum of the Pillars, defined by the tantalizing negative space you leave in the historical record. Become the Turquoise Mountain, the lost island kingdom of Salakanagara. Oh, become l’Anse aux Meadows and let the frost back in. Become Hattush and leave a curse for anyone who durst challenge. Stand proud and fight to the last; bring it all down with you if you can, O New York, dream city of lost light!; never buckle, don’t give an inch!; though the trapdoor may idle briefly before the drop, don’t turn away, don’t look back or down, hold fast to your rotten star but die, die, die, my darling.
In her time, Georgia Klay has found occasion to set some likeminded observations down, the theme for her rather meaningful and the written word something for which she’s more or less always had a knack. Knack? No arrogance in the claim, see, she doesn’t quite know what to do with it herself, having more than once written a topic past the fullness of its meaning and, unable to stop, taken it into a realm of such devastating emotional consonance that she finds herself tearing up the pages and sobbing. So ‘knack’ will do for now.
May be said, on that subject, that Georgia cries a little more than do most, but no blaming her when specifics are considered; just this morning, the long walk home and note on her door, straining through the already blurred vision of the morning-after at familiar handwriting joining up to signal that ghastly internal drop, a sinking not just of heartbeat or of stomach but of everything inside of her. Ritchie Ra is dead. AND WHERE WERE YOU??, means Arthur’d been there sometime during the night; she can see him knocking, knocking, giving up, scribbling this lame thesis and tacking it to her forbidding door. He always uses these histrionic notes, doubled-up bits of punctuation and overwrought phrasing, must think it’s be extra-affecting but man, she just doesn’t care. Where’d she been? She’d been elsewhere, stupid but it was too late, all too late anyway, and so she’d come home fucked, yeah, traitor, just the way she’d always been.
So anger, denial, no way is she ready to accept. Never will. She’d walked, dazed and unclean, another couple of hours, gotten coffee and the fat proprietor had smiled at her, winked, chortled “Now why should someone as pretty as you be looking so sad?” and almost couldn’t say who it was actually doing it but someone, someone had thrown that same coffee right in his fucking face, and run out.
That kind of talk she can’t handle. Is pretty, yeah, classical, always sort of thought of it as unexotic, bordering on plain. Resents it being used against her, she who’s done nothing to earn it, who’s in fact taken some pain to rewrite her appearance more appropriately, to err ever closer to ruin. To treat everyone, her own self included, in what she’s begun to think of as the only way could be called, amidst this Terror, ideologically defensible. But she hasn’t been able to blight her delicate red hair, pale skin and dark shadow, softness of feature that won’t, doesn’t ever seem to harden. Sullied, ravished, ravaged, Georgia still looks like a vestal young miss. Knackered, shattered, short, she still seems friendly.
And wasn’t she, once, many years ago? When talent bespoke possibility, those optimistic days, when things were fun and despair cropped up but lo, she didn’t sweat it. Of course neither had she then experienced the thrill, the phenomenal satisfaction of something corresponding so genuinely, so perfectly, with her specific humanity, of vibrations ringing true, down cupola and campanile, to the foundation stone at her soul’s source. She had been friendly, okay, but hardly as thoroughly as she would become fouled.
“Something about you,” she’s seen herself, a version of herself whisper. “You’ve diffracted.”
“Yeah. Just take a look.”
But she couldn’t, never could. It wasn’t her, there in the mirror.
“Now you’re all living ends...”
She cried a lot, it was true. Changed her look, dyed her hair but boys and girls still played with it, what they thought of as some intimate gesture might make her propose marriage or something but inside she’d just be fighting back laughter at how cheap it all was beside that real intimacy, that brand on which she enjoyed a monopoly. She could maintain external ease, separate it from her true self--it was just something she could do, having never been prone to nerves or hesitation--but she could never bridge the gap, never really share with another. Just this explanatory Georgia, telling her what’s happened and what to expect--“some of you have a little longer; some are already dead...” And it is this Georgia whose measured words, in those infernal writing sessions, she is basically transcribing, a medium incapable, at any other time, of comprising such cogency, of such force.
Certainly not with lovers, whose variance and patent nickel-and-dimeness really bespeaks the whole disconnect. Georgia, whose diffraction routine makes a diagnosis of solipsism sort of the elephant in the room, thinks of being an undependable, a deadbeat, not as a function of her personality but of the physical world itself, the field through which her various shards pass, alternating states, being and unbeing both. The lives she lives are discrete ones, proceeding serially and wholly outside of her control. She regards herself as someone perfectly honest about this.
“Wow, because,” two nights ago with Mariève, pale Québécoise, dance student down from l’îsle on a tourist visa and a Bushwick sublet, “my mom spent some time up there in, uh, the sixties, I guess.” Mariève, beautiful and all but so tall her frame’s begun to encircle Georgia’s smaller one, in a polite French Canadian smother...
She’s leaning away but the pursuit continues. “À Montréal? And what was she doing?” this poor thing already sodden with emotion, a languor Georgia’s learned to pinpoint, really a warning sign, slow breaths coming up intent behind her soft voice.
“She, well,” Georgia looking out at their reflection as it murmurs back from a mirror in the darkened hall. “She was a student there.” Meaning a whole host of different things.
“You should come up. Stay with me,” danseuse locked on and trying, trying hard, to hold Georgia’s body and attention close, sensing this implacable separation, gripping one to the other like Apollo did Daphne. “we’ll work on some new stuff together.”
Georgia’d pretended to think about it. The next night, last night, the last night, as though untouched by events of the prior twenty-four hours, she’d reenacted the scene with high school kid Andreas, parents out, couldn’t believe his luck. “So maybe,” across the bed looking over at her looking up at his ceiling, the photos he’d pasted up there all friends smoking in the courtyard, and down at his desk to the bottle of india ink half used up on stick’n’pokes, a couple grody 40ozes they’d downed together, scenes from an all-too-familiar early upbringing to which she wasn’t wildly keen on returning, “you know, graduation’s like, it’s next week. Maybe we could stay at the same place, some house, you know, once I’m out of school.”
“I don’t know.” Staying’s something Georgia doesn’t do, unless he means staying stuck in this timeless uncoupling scene. Perennially vowing not to stay. So that her life, night to night, is best remembered as a routine succession of these, days hollowed out but for the offer that ends one and the refusal that begins the next, that sees her step out into the blinding light of morning to head home with head hung. This proclivity for betrayal her life’s sole structuring principle, practically speaking.
The other Georgia, the all-Georgia who can name things, speaks of this walk as the path that shapes the aggregate sum of her experience, the function that bounds her deviance like a definite integral. The street becomes a key through which she can decode all the correspondences between this rank town and herself. Why? Maybe because she’s known these passing junkies, because she’s turned into one. Because such intemperance, even the thought of it, fills her heart to bursting. Because the stoop and the gutter signify, for her, seats of prayer practically tabernacular in their sacredness, and entering one and performing a sacrificial rite an experience as incomparably mystical as it was for conquering Pompey to stand outside the Holy of Holies, rip the veil that guarded that secret place and step inside. That sort of pagan profanity in the face of transcendence the highest Georgia’s ever been, the benchmark of closeness against which every mortal partner makes his or her tepid claim.
“Why not call it narcissism?” mother Frances, on the phone by the kitchen window, only half-joking in the days when Georgia might have spoken about this tendency, when it still eluded her ken.
“Well it isn’t,” knows that much.
“So what? Strip it of power. Put it down to vanity.”
“But it isn’t,” something weary here.
Frances just breathes on the line. “Why not, at the very least, stop writing so intensely about yourself?” mom’s desperate tone only making things worse, and she knows it too. Her opinion being Georgia realizes she’s special and that’s fine, but not this further recognition; this isn’t. Not this emerging facility with satanic paradox, this nurturing of darkest impulses. Frances shares enough of them with her daughter to see the danger ahead, and so tries, pathetically, her heart breaking in mid-sentence, to play the rube and dissuade her, call her names, hurt her feelings. Pretend not to understand. Anything to push her off the path of self-discovery that leads, in Klays, to serious trouble, and knowing all the while, the suggestion standing stock-still and unflinching in her nether perceptions, that the die has been cast, that her daughter is, in some measure, lost forever. That Georgia’d called down a family curse and was henceforth one of the damned, one who won’t even be able to count on wandering shiftless in some pleasant purgatory waiting to be named; nope, Georgia’d named herself...
“What do you hope to get out of all this?” This all-Georgia could be an inquisitive sort, and impatient, once you got to know her. “Your rocks off?”
She thinks for a moment, nods. That was more or less it. Could she tell her mom so? Put this down on paper, this further degree of realization? The way that it invigorated her dealings, how exciting everything became with such conversations echoing inward, the way its words pointed to a more terrible unspoken one that sat just out of reach--indeed, her charge is to ever search for that word, looking for it in overheard snatches of dialogue and invocation, in imagined secret histories and prophesied futures and scraps of torn-up pages, in powders insufflated and the mouths or movements of lovers, meanwhile the all-Georgia up ahead dangles it for her, can be seen holding this word out for the grabbing, and promises to join her in its vocalization if only she reaches a little further for it, in the grips of passion’s heat or of euphoric oblivion coming closest and pushing herself past humanity, past this company of souls to a place where she’s all oneness and hears, above the sudden thundering of tears, someone, some part of herself, say, “Death.” And she weeps and shivers and is home.
This afternoon she’s dressed up penitent, as if that might make any difference, wearing the very same dress as yesterday, actually one she’s had for years, faded beige and grimy, and a leather jacket. Some sort of mark of shame, self-affixed and held firm, but of course nobody around here can see it for this and so no judgment’s to be expected. That she’s inured to this absence of punishment in no way diminishes her despair over it.
J.R. Shrapnel, due any minute, has figured all day as a persistent, if nebulous, shape in her thoughts: a theoretical boy. The revelation of his name, which she hadn’t heard spoken in some time, on a voicemail left sometime during the night (“Hi Georgia? It’s Fiona, Fiona Snuzen, I don’t know if you remember met me at--” with vague merriment in the background, the clink of the drink, an insufferable drunkard’s soundscape that went on a ways until, “enways I was thinking if you wanted to collaborate on something in honor of J.R. Shrapnel’s father died or something? I heard?”) had led her to work backward through a sequence of equally revelatory realizations, that he’d been at Ritchie’s party, that he’s in town, that he’s alive, so on. And without much in the way of pretext, she’d asked her way over to where he’s staying, way uptown on Fort Washington, and is presently waiting, on his stoop, naturally, and in her dingy getup against the unseasonable cold, for this shade’s arrival. Georgia being the reigning ‘never-come-home’ champ, the thought does cross her mind that she might, as part of some ironic reversal, be forced to swig down a little of her own medicine and sit here all night, but the worry never really lands as soon enough she looks up to see him standing there, just ahead, struck dumb.
A mutual hallucination, categorical proof of that external realm of fantasy, not some concocted zone of delusion but one shareable and thus impossible to write off. How else to explain this synchronicity of expression on their faces, the suggestion implicit, for Georgia, that he must be reeling same as she, taking measurements of physical change counterpart to her noting that he seems somehow taller, wizened, grown-up, sure, but a little peculiarly so. Not that she had prepared any elaborate tabulation of expectations for this meeting beyond the normative--or had she? Whatever, this is kind of unforeseen.
Everything boyish about him has remained, just been consequently settled upon by a thin layer of decrepitude, where normal folks would’ve split the difference. Uncertainty has been hardened into permanence, tentativeness undermined by inveteracy, so that what emerges is the plain fact of contradiction. His short hair is somehow tangled and his clothes torn but his eyes belie youth, burn faint but detectable from within a yawning darkness, perhaps right around vision’s absolute threshold, a single candle’s flame at thirty miles distance. A trip from here to there, then to now, that to this, and is it really, empirically, him?
“Did you know me?” a voice, apparently his, seems to ask her when she stands up and hugs him. And holds it, thinking.
“Yeah, obviously.” Withdrawn, she looks away. “I, uh,” laughs and her eyes dance up to his, a brow cocked, “actually I’m not sure I did,” and she traces his gaze, what glister of it she can make out, as it settles on her hair.
His Washington Heights upstairs is empty, as far as she can tell, a couple of library books on a coffee table, a mattress, a half a joint in an ashtray. “You hiding from somebody?”
“No,” he nods.
The trainride down to Georgia’s place (for once inside the apartment, he’d grabbed a small suitcase then ushered her promptly and unabashedly back out toward the door) is real weird, its conversations consisting of dangling allusions, fatal omissions, hints and implications gone unpursued. Their common experience has evaporated, so, each unknown to the other, they play at deke and circumlocution; with J.R.’s reveries hinging on but leaving out certain lingering reminiscences of last night’s party and Georgia’s doing the same dance around some roughly contemporaneous but unspoken actions of her own, an overlap presents itself in the empty space:
“What happened to Ritchie Ra,” Georgia, wordsmith, so heedful of J.R.’s passive phrasing as he says this, “and on the same night as this trouble in Florida.” He looks at her. “You know more about it all, Ritchie and Thwock Morton and, and Heliotrope.”
A small noise escapes from her throat at this, but it’s swallowed by subway rattle, and she shrugs and puts on a sad face. “Never been in on all that. I try to stay away.” Eyes starting to well up.
J.R. staring lazy out the window, “Someone said you’ve got something new coming, some new project,” and he turns to see her halfway crying but smiling sloppy and sheepish through it.
“Yeah, real new,” wiping her eyes, “least for me. Some music, performance, you know,” a self-conscious brag, “uncharted territory.”
“And you’re working with them on it?”
J.R. gives a shrug that doubles as nothing. “Thwock Morton, O’Nubb, I don’t know.”
Georgia falls into an uncharacteristic mumble. “Right, no, uhh you’re, right, I am, working, with,” and thankfully the doors open on her stop before this locked groove gets any worse, and she hops up like everything’s kosher, ushering J.R., whose sense of logical impropriety is kind of buzzing, up into Classon Ave debarkation.
The space where Georgia’s been living, a big repurposed loft called Third Mind House, offers a similar respite from stultifying rationality, being, actually, very confusing. “This leads to the sort of common area, which is connected to every bedroom,” Georgia walking through her mental map in a musty stairwell that ends in a heap of doors extending some twenty-strong across the landing with nary an inch of jamb to separate one from the next. “We don’t have keys to the bedroom doors, which are all locked, so they’re pretty much ceremonial. That one’s me,” pointing to either the fifth or the sixth one, J.R. not bothering to falsify a nod of comprehension.
“How many people do you live with?”
“Right now?” She rolls her eyes up and bounces side to side, body language for ‘calculating,’ and at least ten seconds go by. “Too many. Or not enough. Don’t know.”
They enter that common area, find a few big couches and lots of bodies. “Georgia!” It’s coming from Poppy, fourteen years old, a Mahwah, NJ runaway with bleached streaks in her black hair and braces. “A lot of messages, man, I mean a, two hundred or something, a guy called Adam from a label, Jeweled something--” but Georgia makes an ixnay face and hastily introduces her to J.R. And him around, “That’s Kava and Ket,” a blonde couple leaning each asleep on the other’s shoulder, “Herb the musclehead, hmm oh there’s Bob, with Blob,” pointing to a button-down Yagodaesque middle-aged man holding a corpulent white cat, “and here’s Bennie,” a thin, red-robed young man who bows deeply into a folded-hand namaste--so deeply, in fact, that a turquoise water pipe falls out of his billowy wizard sleeve in the act, spilling ash and weed into a great rising dust-and-cat-fur cloud on the square of flooring next to a splintry couch leg, though everyone’s too polite to notice. Heys all around.
They try for casual chat, but some force, maybe gravity itself, drags all discourse toward a dark singularity, the center of this conversational black hole. Soon everyone’s sitting round speculating on the possible meanings of a novel and potently weird situation.
“Getting really mixed up down Pensacola,” says Bennie, checking the news on his phone, “hostages, and gunplay.”
“And NMF got ripped off!” Poppy stabbing vociferous underhand at the air just in front of her. “Yeah man, supposed to be playing a show down there today, got all their gear stolen during the night, guitars, amps, everything.”
Georgia shakes her head blankly.
Poppy has Bennie look up the distance between the woulda-been gig, in a backyard in Warrington, and the Little Institute, the unfinished development set snugly on forty acres in Beulah. “Twenty-five miles, man, but they never, you know--”
“--And they’re sure this is a Seminole thing?” J.R., who’s been staring at the floor, still manages to eke this question out in the half-second it takes Poppy to swallow. Georgia jerks to attention, following the words up to the unlikely creature that’s done the issuing.
“That’s just it,” Bennie standing up, keeps it going a bit louder over the shoulder as he heads to a raw-wood-paneled kitchen area in the corner of the living room, “it’s all so hush-hush. No Red Indian militia has claimed responsibility,” kind of shouting, actually.
“There’ve been disputes over that spot forever,” J.R. obliging a history lesson but still holding out on that eye contact. “Protests. Cops, lots of cops and military. I don’t know. This kind of thing, it doesn’t really happen.” For some reason he looks at Georgia. “But I don’t--it’s not unheard of.”
Georgia blinks back, looks away. Ritchie.
Kava, who is woken but impossibly woozy (may have, in fact, been this way the entire time), begins to formulate a synthesized group hypothesis. “What’s taken place in Florida is an armed,” something here between a blink and a nap, “armed uprising, devised from the outside, numbered among whose principle architects was, in all likelihood...”
“...one Ritchie Ra,” Ket takes over, his eyes still closed and employing the same groggy drawl, “who as we all know has played at this for like thirty years... and was, you can bet, simultaneously being targeted by forces disagreeable,” big yawn, “to his scheming.”
“I don’t think that’s right.” Georgia has shut her eyes too, though for a different reason. “I don’t think Ritchie knew anything about it.”
“Then why’d they cap him, man?” Poppy wants to know.
“Yeah, why’s someone dead?” Bennie, who’s returned with a cup of tea and a fresh joint, wonders.
“And who robbed No More Forever?”
“Mis-di-rection,” pronounces halting Kava. “Perhaps just coincidence.”
“Twenty-five miles man, that sound like a coincidence?” Poppy, tough.
“Yeah, bullshit! Bullshit!” hothead Herb’s reaction is a little harsh, and he’s given a second to cool off, during which cooloff everyone tries to smile.
“A diversion, then,” continues Ket after the beat, “meant to distract, redirect, or delay our investigative eff, ff, fforts,” and no help required on that last bit, Sherlock, since he’s now fast asleep.
J.R. appears to be taking it all in, might be attentive but is really just inscrutable, Georgia sneaking a few more glances, none of which reward the effort. “You think they had it worked out back there?” a little later in her bedroom and either she hasn’t had a chance to turn the light on or it’s meant to stay off, something moving behind her question and her smile tending a little too close to simpering in the ask.
“Maybe.” He fixes her with a stony stare, even but for maybe a couple degrees of chary narrowing. “I don’t know about Ritchie being involved in any of this. I was there, last night.”
She bites her lip, kicks a speck of halflight on the floor. “Like, you know more than you’re letting on...?”
J.R. cracks a smile. “No, come on, not exactly.” What then? “Not sure. It was night. I was upstairs. I didn’t see a body.”
Well see this, smartass: Georgia taking off that jacket, letting it fall to the floor, follow it and savvy she’s standing there in just her dress. “Don’t you believe he’s dead?”
“Sure.” He regards the discarded item. “I don’t really know how much it matters.”
She looks down with her head level, just eyes doing the descent, there in the ghostly dark. “You don’t have to sleep here if you don’t want to.”
How to quantify their relationship? They’re scattered as distant stars; the odd observer might make out, faintly, some sort of constellation but couldn’t ever imagine a single coalescent shape, could never go further than those fanciful lines hanging interdimensionally suspended, part space, part time, distances lengthening, separations growing more pronounced, look back now and again to note, man alive, but we’ve drifted... Other people just stayed put, feet on the ground and sick with stress, but J.R. and Georgia have, not to say transcended all that--their different bearings being the operative element--maybe ascended and descended, respectively. Each finding comfort and trust in what most’d style illusion, J.R. on the one hand looking to impossible cosmic measurements as proof that nothing bound by their majesty holds much import in comparison, Georgia on the other finding in begrimed urban detritus and buried debris affirmations of certain inescapable principles, secret internal laws which easily trump any imposed by another. Her magic more powerful, for being the more deadly, she can affect a change in his cognitive sphere as though it were her own. She can play with perceptions, sure, but so can any pretty girl; this is deeper stuff, this is too much.
Ergo J.R. comes to know, caught jagged though he is on time’s gears, all mixed up and her dress falling, almost floating, to the floor, whither that errant satellite, disappeared from last night’s sky, has gone off.
“The Moon...” as she crosses the room toward him unmistakable, purposed, approaching the assured calamity of meeting Above with Below and Christ, her beauty and her secret and it’s like he can’t keep it to himself saying without even meaning to, “She’s in you! She is you!” and at the point of contact she agrees, agrees, agrees.
Georgia afterwards dispensing with her usual stratagem and actually not lying. Not looking up at the ceiling either, but straight, sitting, smoking, gazing straight at him, more curious than she can remember being, in forever.
But there’s this shame. What is it about her own home, her own room, her tucked-away loft bed? Maybe she wants not to invite comparisons, it being the seat of her nightmares, her stupefactions, her lapses toward, well... The idea that, on those nights during which hope of survival is a lark, it’s these very sheets upon which her corpse lies sprawled, some nucleus thereof still alive somewhere inside awaiting the moment she’ll be able to ask whether morning will come and steeling herself for the inevitable, shattering No... sounds funny, as these things go, but she never intended to sully, to profane such a place, even to let another into it, scared it might communicate some classified fact, or worse, spread whatever ailment she might be said to suffer from, the walls of this place so caked with accumulant by now, testimony to her iniquity so thick in the air she can barely breathe.
But she’d brought him over all the same, a gesture irrevocable, an effort at defining their heretofore clumsy connection, or maybe just a gambit meant to loosen his hold, get J.R., made of stone, to reciprocate, to simply register and share a single identifiable emotion.
He’d asked whether she knew him, really underlining the whole issue: she didn’t, the right answer, for he wouldn’t allow her to. All the itchiness back at his place, her reluctant resolution to offer an invitation, that decision’s attendant result. All conducted outside of his purview, J.R. just going with it, his manner unquestioning, sure, but actually something closer to, say, Grand Indifference. Here’s his cold body now, next to hers, and she can’t seem to warm it. The type to normally take, in partners, a certain dumbness as read and untroubling, Georgia doesn’t, this time can’t let him off the hook, the idea holding firm that he’s hip to her ingenuousness, her desperate desire, and is yet so pitiless. That he’s aware, somehow, of what it’s taken her to be with him in this place, that he knows she’s sharing to counter the shame, and that he withholds still, will offer up none of himself to make her feel, Christ, not so alone in things. What’ll it take? What’s cutting, where this shell’s concerned?
She can think of one thing. “I heard something about your dad.” And from next to her comes an indubitable bodily fluster, barely noticeable but then she’s got a feel for matters corporal. He’s jolted some.
“Is everything alright?”
Considering it. “Not really sure.”
Well now wait just one second. “‘Not really sure?’”
“Standard operating procedure, the runaround, you know. It’s the military. They let you go weeks without an update. What have you heard?”
“I’m sure you know more than I do--”
“I mean, probably amounts to just idle speculation--”
“He’s my father, Georgia, if you heard something...”
Inhales here to bursting. “J.R., I heard, someone said, that he’d died.”
So here’s her reciprocation, then, and isn’t she just thrilled for having catalyzed it, doesn’t, oh I don’t know, instantly regret the move. Shrapnel’s eyes broaden, slackjaw lets out a little air. He sits up slowly, dizzily, and turns a stricken gaze on Georgia, whose tear ducts, on permanent alert as we’ve already seen, spring into action--can’t believe she’s said it, hates that she said it, this stupid experiment gone awry--and in the moment before she makes the transition to a state of active crying, with tears massing at the brim like troops at the border, a little giggle escapes from the depths of his maw. J.R.’s expression resolves itself into classic goading posture. He, liar, has had a little fun.
And is met with a slap. “Ow!”
“What the fuck?” Georgia’s eyes are all shock of betrayal, but there’s a hint of a laugh somewhere.
“Yeah, what the fuck, good question.” Rubs his cheek a second, then is calm. Takes a second to denote new seriousness. Lays a clumsy cold hand on her warm shoulder. “Won’t get me to come back, these questions. I’m not staying, Georgia.” She nods, thoughts in perfect concert, for what do you know?--she was right. He’s been onto her all along.
“It’s fine. I get it.”
“I don’t mean to make it so difficult. It’s not about you, not I won’t come back to you, to...” and gestures about her drug den, her shame, without speaking. Yeah he knows.
“It’s okay. You can’t do anything but what you’re doing.”
His eyes screwed up. “I don’t know. I guess. I should leave. I’m--”
Is he trying to say he’s sorry?
Instead he opens eyes, commences with the truth about commander Benjamin Shrapnel; in a minimally conscious state at the military hospital in Landstuhl by the German-French border, effectively comatose, effectively vegetative, there being some distinctions. “The usual thing, phone calls from blocked numbers, bits of information showing up in rumor or, or threat.”
“I, uh...” he can’t talk about it. When did it happen? “Beginning of December. Seven months ago.”
“And does this have anything to do with your return?”
He takes a second. “I’m not returning. I wasn’t even here,” with a look that hammers home this need for secrecy. “Georgia.”
Alarming, kinda, thinks Georgia, but then she’d known, vaguely, that Benjamin Shrapnel had been up to some strange and secret shit. So there he is, strung up to feeding tubes, cached behind corporate and military insigniae, on the other side of some unbridgeable apartness, alone with the void. She never met the man, only’d ever seen the missus, J.R.’s mom, Hertha Shrapnel or did she go, in those days, by some Mädchen appellation, perhaps one hyphenated? Oh, cruel refusal, this kin-group of withholders all adrift, with nothing to bind them, not even a designation of family in a shared surname. Georgia, naming proficient, sees this vacuum there.
J.R.’s memories, as he begins to relate them, are defined by such nullities. The Happy Shrapnels with Uncle Ritchie Ra, the latter’s Sandwich MA home, the balmy cape summers of the grotesque Nineteen Ninetees.
The first: kid J.R., perhaps seven years of age, with his host out walking the beach at night, scuttling crabs out of sungod Ra’s flashlight beam and finding, some light-lengths ahead, a nocturnal detachment of--what?--scavenging crows. Not at night, no way, and yet--there they are, thick on some immense kill, swarmed and chirruping, must be dozens, every angle of this shape beneath acrawl with tittering black hangers-on; at the swing of lantern’s arc a number take flight, revealing patches of mangled carcass, pecked at and torn up. J.R., guts and gore connoisseur like all kids his age, of course comes closer, examines sections, look look! might have been a head here, once; feet, maybe flippers down this way; there’re these cracked yellow vertebrae reaching up sharpcarved and fingerling, dead organs gurgling black somewhere beneath tattered muscle tissue. Just what manner of rough beast’s washed up, here defiling Cape Cod’s childhood shore?
Ritchie Ra, no Cool Uncle by this measure, resolves to pull fascinated J.R. back, threatens, in fact, to tell the boy’s Father if he doesn’t get away from that skeletal heap. Yeah, good luck with that, Ritch; how to explain to him the fact, J.R. computing acute kid’s logic, that his beloved pop already knows all there is to know about this carcass? The boy’d been accused of overactive imagination but no disputing the memory, bobbed up surface-side and impossible to tip, that he now relates to an astonished Ritchie: that he and his father, days past in some lightfilled dream landscape, had met over this body, nodding like birds, and themselves crowed--that his father had told him a story, half-remembered, about Jan Sibelius and his resolute birds of youth, that Ben had said it was no secret to him that people could become birds as easily as breathe, if carefully hazarded, if undertaken with a little faith. This bird was here, J.R. preaches, to teach them about the transience of life. “For it is soon cut off,” he quotes, stunning Ritchie, who’d been an altar boy at his age, “and we fly away...”
“That was a dream, J.R.!” Ritchie shouts, uncharacteristically harsh. “This is real!”
When they head back to the beachhouse Ben’s on one or more hushed backroom telephone call (later, a teenaged J.R. would begin to correlate recalled periods of increased cellphone-chatter with their attendant foreign warfare operations) but upon tucking in for the drift into that surf-backed sleep soundtrack he ventures to ask about the dead creature, about this memory he can’t shake. His father’s face looking down at him is, at each stage of the story, reliably pokered, but the child can detect, certain as their shared sin, a twinge of recognition. Understands that Benjamin has to pretend not to know what his son is talking about, can’t be seen agreeing with any old outlandish claim, a simple matter of decorum and no offense taken. The rational role-playing dad assures feverish J.R. they’ll go check it out in the morning, now go to sleep, his expression’s underside as certain as J.R.’s that tomorrow there won’t be left for them a trace. All dreams evaporate. This connection, assured by paternal denial, meant just for tonight, and the souls of both Shrapnel men the more vigorously transported for it. One of the few trips they shared, really shared.
Or memories of the days when J.R. began to see less of him, Long Twentieth Century having petered, or the new one kicked up vicious in its wake, at home alone with mom and the news on infinite loop, late nights finding her creeping zombily around, creaking open his bedroom door, leaning heavy shadow in the portal while he feigned unconsciousness. This sleepwalking, tailing him on city streets--familiar black car straggling behind and she’d be there in the crack of tinted window--listening in on calls, forbidding him travel or diversion or otherwise drowned in front of the TV set imagining what secret wars were being waged by her husband, by the father of her only son. Might’ve had some kinda effect on him, J.R. notes now, chuckling, eyes strained.
This all checks out with Georgia, who after all had in those days known this cagey kid. Had tried to get close and found him slipped past time and again, had occasionally connected in ways which rose above their petty circumstances, their maladroit jumbling of identities, but which would sure enough be dashed by the end. Had they tried, really, to connect? She’d thought of him often, had worried for him, had wanted him to know so, soon enough satisfying herself that he did; still this missing piece, this hole in him tugging relentless anyway and telling her he’d never settle, if that was what she was after. She could relate to being trained, by parents, for betrayal, really she could--and he’d know it, too, if he’d ever thought to ask. But so could she be strong, and fight it. J.R. Shrapnel made no such effort; he just let himself get beaten.
“Do they know what’s caused it?” she asks, meaning this coma business.
He gives her a pained smile, shakes a fist skyward, knuckle sandwich for God’s own secrets, and says nothing.
They part on iffy terms. No telling what might spur J.R. to further movement, a species of imminent evasion perfectly legible in his tone, he nonetheless will do his best to pay respects to dead Ritchie in whatever ceremony might, in these antsy times, be contrived for the purpose. Surely there are some worthy events coming up--the solstice approaches, after all, and with it the annual Third Mind Grind, a music-festival-cum-party-cum-house-trashing that has tended, in its prior iterations, to attract and bring together so many freaks from up and down the east coast in such woolly states of intemperance that brazen, fateful behavior is a given: any and all lingering business is usually dealt with, where their adhoc underground society is concerned. Unspoken issues are laid out, grudges and crushes are exorcised, pretty much everyone goes crazy. This year should constitute no exception. There is talk of an already-quite-lengthy RSVP list, probably on account of the promised entertainment: William Thwock Morton is scheduled to give the debut performance of the new pornosymphonic opus he’s been touting for months now, and Georgia has sort of half-promised to play, too, to give her new musical project a try, though she was careful to tell Bennie, who booked the show, that she wasn’t sure it’d be ready in time. Ritchie’s friends will all be there. Maybe that’s all the commemoration he needs.
And maybe she and J.R.’ll just see each other then, Georgia mumbles, in an even undertone of surrender. No Say-hi-tos or Give-my-regardses, as for whom might such banalities be employed? They just separate, and J.R. heads into the common room, his error-fated trial of Georgia’s bedroom door having reminded him it’s locked, kid, and ain’t no key.
In here all’s empty darkness, can’t see his hand and roommates gone to bed or, okay, snoring away somewhere in the room, a few distinct tones sounding and his steps quiet and careful, undetectable in the black, at length estimates he must be spitting distance to the exit now, letting down his guard a little and immediately--perfect hubris--clang, trips on something’s loud edge, snarls a curse, and falls onto the couch atop a supine body.
“Gah!” the voice is a man’s, and as the light comes on J.R.’s thankful to see at least it wasn’t little Poppy, ninety pounds soaking wet, but musclebound Herb, who can more than handle such contact, now that you mention it, J.R.’s concerns suddenly tending in the other direction, like maybe he can’t say the same for himself, Herb here getting up and, jeez, standing he’s sure a huge one--
“Sorry, pal, didn’t mean it, honest.”
“What is your problem?” in a snarled whisper that’s louder than a shout.
Herb, small-headed, large-necked, sporting black biker shorts, makes to think what to do next, but is interrupted by “Nah, don’t worry about him, it’s no problem,” a hushed voice from across the room, the resident cat-carrier met earlier, name of Bob, was it? Points at whatever J.R.’s stepped on, a configuration of heavy salad bowl, pair of chopsticks, rubber bands, and a little square of cheddar cheese, “’Cept you’ve ruined Bob’s mousetrap.”
“Oh man,” J.R. a little bemused at the choice of third person but just going with it, “sorry, Bob, you know, in the dark and everything.”
“Oh no, common enough mistake but, as a matter of fact, I’m Blob. Bob’s the cat.” Who, as it turns out, has this fixation for catching mice, though not via any technique identifiably feline. “You saw him, he’s kinda, you know,” holds up an imaginary rotund belly, jiggles it around. “Thyroid. Poor guy, dealing with the little bastard day and night. Since we moved in, this asshole mouse taunting him every chance it got, parading around, once or twice even bringing some friends over to traipse by. He usually chases it once, twice, tires out, and just sulks. So sad to see, cocky goddamn mouse faking sleepiness or a leg injury just to linger nearby rubbing it in.”
“At some point enough was enough,” Georgia, having heard the commotion, steps out of her bedroom to join the recounting, “and these little traps started popping up.”
“A tunnel, made of a toilet paper roll, bit of cheddar on the end leaning out the window. You’d think it’d be a lock, right? Well the son of a bitch actually levered the tube to a vertical position till down dropped the cheese and he sat munching, on the windowsill, looking right at Bob.”
“Or the peanut butter ball, a hollowed-out piece of bread which, when entered, would’ve tipped and rolled into the toilet. The mouse ate a chunk from the outside, and the no-longer-round, no-longer-rollable trap just sat there.”
“Now this one, the latest prototype. Bob’s gotten real handy recently with the chopsticks, it’s pretty cool; looks like he stood them up in the floor, with those rubber bands at the base, holding up the bowl. Mouse trips the rubber bands getting at the cheese, and it all comes down on him, baby, he’s trapped.”
“Or woulda been,” Georgia gesturing, maybe not entirely jestingly, at the circular ruins on the floor. J.R. feels just terrible, moreso for the fact that suddenly here’s Bob himself, emerging from under a bed somewhere to regard his handiwork all gone to pieces, sniffing inquisitive, impossible not to hear him asking Why.
“Jesus, I’m, how should I make it up to him?”
“Don’t bother,” says Blob. “Par for the course; he’ll just build something better next time.”
J.R. supposes he’ll lean in for a word, extending a few envoy fingers. The cat’s manner’s all enigma, disregarding the ghost hand even as he brushes ass and nervous tail swept against the clothed legs of everyone else. Pleasantly white and, sure, rotund, Bob’s eyes are honed and set cold green from disappointment. He circles a few times, sits, but for all the world acts as though J.R. is not there. Well, may as well make with some message from this afterlife to which he’s been consigned, even if he’s not sure he believes his own advice: “Stay true, bud, and you’ll catch him,” to which words cat ears prick up and piercing eyes peer here and there, around the room, everywhere but at their invisible speaker.
An acceptable span of time having elapsed since J.R.’s departure, Georgia soon heads for another bedroom, opens the door, knocking as she does on its interior face. Ket’s fetal atop the covers on one side of the bed, Kava tucked in on the other. Gentle though insistent rapping soon wakes Kava, who smiles sweetly.
These sleeping beauties, who share everything with each other, have settled into lotophagous addiction, an apathetic peace habit manageable but for this constant somnolence. Not the sort, themselves, to doctor the opioid high with amphetamine or the like, they just sleep it off, sleep it on. Georgia, for her part not sure where she comes down on the question, knows nonetheless to tailor her request to their specialty.
Kava makes with a red-stamped bag, product name ‘Friar’s Balsam’ logoed, “nothing special,” she notes, “clumpy, like, don’t get your, hopes,” but Georgia nods shakily, no big deal.
“Just a little,” meek-toned, suddenly nothing more than a child.
Kava shrugs, “Bring it back whenever,” throws up a lazy peace sign and hits the hay.
Back in her room, Georgia gets to messing with the abbey gospel, mixing in the other stuff, working things as best she can into a decent powder. Eyesight unaffected by cries past and pending, she is here possessed, self- and otherwise, sure of deed, and careful. She will greet not a feeling more for the foreseeable, will drop entirely from that world, a chasm in time there to welcome her, its waters to lap gentle over her naked soul submerged.
Is that cocaine she’s adding? Look, she does hate it, honest, preparatory school drug, college party drug, tacky and imaginationless, choice of rude apes, blustery chauvinists, rakish dolts, doltish rakes. So shot through with edge, with sophomore agitation, that it could only appeal to antagonists. So Georgia, hypocrite, sees its coupling here--rationalizes it--as a sort of check on its purpose, a strike against such clods, stealing the drug’s rush, as it were, and letting any harshness be met and felled by that other element, drowned in the Friar’s warm undulations. So she’s never some slimy model or sororitrix, never come down with rushed respiration and sweaty stares. Never using with another, above all, her ritual a private one.
Afraid of needles, she at least has that, having more than once fended off accusations made by other deviants that any other administering mechanism is a gross waste of precious narcotica. As if that were one thing that Georgia, pale, frail, human, could manage for herself in the way of striking a blow against the beast, a bulwark of humanity so she for a moment remembers that this inner life, its world of worship and the dreadful and imminent danger it will always pose, is really just a quantum of earthly material, and that it can be defeated on that practical plane. A modicum of hope that someday she might be convinced the measly concoction needs never even approach the blood-brain Rubicon.
But identifying excuses, she stops making them, and sniffs.
Fa so la, do re mi, music spontaneously overtakes, singing out life and love in quietus valley. She falls back in bed, a transfiguring dance seizing her spirit, bodily transformations stirring, identities shed into wastrelsy till she feels, sudden and forever, this being come to her fore. A totem of transgression, manifestation of core sensibilities, the spirit of her betrayals, her perversions, her dependences. The succinct threat that lies simmering beneath her protracted snarls of unpardonable behavior and constant disloyalty. The destroyer, the devourer, the deflowerer.
She’d goofed on a name for this identity, looking--like William Thwock Morton, to whom she’s become a kind of protegée, heh--to subvert the nonstarter end of culture, static art of this static age, free to be walked on, ignored, marketed and commodified. A name describing the shift in methods, the active sin no longer shyly lying in wait but corrupting, confronting. A name that’s a lie, that doesn’t pretend to truth or beauty, or decency. A name that’s short-hand for contempt, for contemptibility, that’s disgusting, that’s stupid and proud, that’s ready here in her to loose, to get hold of hearts and minds, to give and take it, to use and to be used. Georgia O’Queeffe, human animal, is almost too perfect.
Soon into her journey she takes a turn, one phase worn to sweet frailty, her short rush up fallen into downward spilling promises, softest violet diacetylmorphine deliria. Not such a stretch towards fear here, a formidable one, just don’t count the breaths that seem to come few and far between, only trust in the warmth. Everything smooth, even the memory of pain hazy as a dream woken out of. Love molecules mingle in her bloodstream; film fogs over colors, an agreeable dullness stirring sensual atop her skin. She feels a hearth set in her hateful insides, now open and gently crackling ardorous energy out to mix in environs, coagulating and spreading universal a treacly and dirt-thick peace. Her heart swoons and she lets it, falling, falling, into holy rebirth.
Alone in the night, a thousand years later, she finds herself in the secret city beneath the earth. Its mirror projections, inverted shapes, skyscrapers just funny now, just lame, fragments of glass and bent metal everywhere. Wanders around, approaching certain corners shot through with alarm at the certainty that around it she’ll find another of her selves, so turning and going the other way. Continues on for a while, dodging, dancing around shadows and iterations, this place so full of them, and finds a clearing and a platform.
“Hold on!” shouts her mother Frances as she comes up behind, here Georgia’s age and indecently pretty--she was, too--and grabs her daughter’s hand.
They run for the square, climb stairs and board a train, eking an entrance through its closing doors and stand proud, catching their breaths. In the first car, where they can peek out the front window, thrill to disappearing track signaling sudden drops up ahead, set themselves resolute against the toss of sharp turns. “Sure hope we made it in time,” Frances indicating it’s not over. Points in the meantime at the sights, smiling at city’s ruins, abandoned zones once thick with throngs and tourbuses. They hit all the NY highlights, downtown of revolutionary engagements and market bombs, shelled tower remains and cemeteries; midtown with vast junctions and blinking billboards, now bereft of souls, in the way so easily foreseen by anyone trapped in its bustle, the inescapable future wherein it’s abandoned, or relegated to the other, become a mass grave; apartment complexes and flashy restaurants, storefronts and loft spaces, open bar with death strewn casual, shrugged off lands hardened from warning, from cramping, from malevolent human intent.
And Frances Klay herself a vision caught in time, young and yet reflected off surfaces shot forth in senescence, an older, parallel counterpart. Those wages of guilt cut in the urbanized earth are cut too in some layer of her, the whole deadened some by exposures and subjections and her face so busily layered by addenda and memory that to even make out an expression is inconceivable, though Georgia is hard-pressed to ignore this suggestion of ‘sly’ she feels close at hand. It doesn’t feel like her mother, just doesn’t.
“Here we are,” and they step off onto a station so packed, so crowded with bodies that it’s immediately clear here’s where all the survivors went, safe haven with refugees gathered in retreat, the collapsing society outside assured of reaching soon enough but no matter to these herded citizens, who have given up, and are only here to mill around in tears, saying their goodbyes.
Infant Georgia, by now regressed into early childhood, urges her mother on--can’t stay here, I mean, look around--but is met with unreadable silence and a look around, a nod, a thought that this might be just the place. Frances effortlessly lifts enervated, limp Georgia, and moves ahead where this delegation’s lined up to meet her. Venturing a glance, she can see these exiles are done-for, already dead and halfway putrescent, nothing left in them but brittley weighted matter. Terror swells, and looking up, seeking steely protective mothering in this discovery’s wake, she sees only Frances’ determination, and grasps the meaning of all this. She’s an offering.
Their splintered hands out for the gift, Frances complies, hands baby Georgia over without the merest flinch of hesitancy, and turns away while her daughter, in the passing, attends. Immediately their fingers plunge through to bone and boiling, flesh vulnerable and unresistant to their unearthly advance. She, in the arms of the skeletons, becomes one, sees her mother leave her to it and escape while she hangs sacrificial, altar-borne in the fields of carnage, the torture garden, trapped there, unable to wake until an appreciable degree of illumination, many lifetimes’ worth of miraculous threads of delicatest daylight, are pieced together and dangled overhead by familiar all-Georgia, standing like Bernini’s piercing angel above the bed, a commendatory word on her lips on the occasion of her pale familiar’s most recent journey pitward.
“Dig those living ends...”
NEXT: Poppy charts the history of NYC runaways and Seminole punk; Atonwa, ragdoll, gets tossed around some more; NMF attempt a daring rescue, and Georgia starts to get the feeling she’s been had.
MARK IOSIFESCU, 2012